My Jewish Press columns always elicit much feedback. Not only from regular readers of the paper but from people who pick up the column on our Hineni website and from those I meet at my programs and at dozens of other places.
This past week was no exception. People told me that while they more or less agree with the concerns raised in the letter from a woman troubled by the negative impact of modern technology, they fail to understand the connecting link between iPod, iPads, smartphones, etc., and the increased levels of chutzpah and the accelerating disintegration of family life.
But there indeed is a connecting link.
The most powerful and life-changing influence on life today is the Internet – technology in general, really. Every day brings a new technological development. The possibilities are limitless – and we have come to believe that we are limitless. We have become arrogant and pompous.
Arrogance and pomposity breed chutzpah. And when chutzpah and technology meet, it is a potentially deadly combination. When everyone is engrossed in e-mailing and texting and watching videos and movies and television shows on their phones and other hand-held devices, it creates fertile ground for family breakdown and general disregard for others and their needs. We no longer have to talk, we no longer have to listen, we no longer have to respond; we check our messages and if we don’t like them we move on.
With a push of a finger we can wipe out voices and words we do not want to hear. But it doesn’t stop there. Toxic fumes that deaden our sense of judgment – our ability to distinguish between right and wrong, moral and immoral, corrupt and honest, licentiousness and modesty – are just a click or finger-push away, available to anyone of any age. The most depraved acts and lifestyles inundate us and we have sunk so low that we no longer recognize that something is desperately wrong.
The seduction starts early. Our children have access to things that used to be difficult to find even for adults who were inclined to seek them out. Even parents whose children are safely in their rooms in the security of their homes must think twice. The children may be in their room, but from there they are able to visit the most vile, perverted places and fall under the spell of really depraved people – all it takes is a click of that mouse.
Ours is a generation in which all too often the computer becomes “Mommy.” Instead of mothers holding their children tight, embracing them with love while they tell them stories, it is the computer that is relied upon to do the job. We take pride in the technological know-how of our little ones who are nurtured on computers. Too late we discover that their nourishment through technology means that as young adults they communicate through technology rather than through personal interaction with family members and friends.
Readers may protest that the Internet has done so much good. No one should misinterpret the intent of this column; I fully recognize the importance of the Internet and technological communication. But it is also doing terrible harm.
There was a time when we thought that as a result of the Internet the world would become one village. Peace, harmony, and friendship would prevail. We never imagined the extent to which all manner of pornography and all manner of anti-Semitic, racist, and jihadist websites and blogs would multiply by the hundreds of thousands. Lies and myths and defamation spread like wildfire on a minute-by-minute basis.
As a rebbetzin who deals with people with problems, I can tell you of the many shidduchim that have been destroyed by the most vicious lashon hara posted online. Anyone can write anything and people will believe it – after all, they saw it on the Internet!
Can we change course? While we may not be able to change our society and the craziness that envelops it, we can change ourselves. We can protect and insulate our home with Torah.
Some practical suggestions:
1) Monitor your computer. This applies not only for children but for everyone. Sadly, I have heard all too often about adult members of families who visit websites no Torah Jew should go anywhere near.
2) Tell your children you will not accept text messages and e-mails unless they are followed up by live phone calls as well. Communication does not mean a one-way conversation but, rather, people actually talking and exchanging ideas. And again, this holds true not only for children but adults too.
3) Do not tolerate insolent behavior. Do not be afraid of being a parent. You must take a stand; if you do, you will earn respect and influence others. We are Torah people and there is only one Law, one Way we can follow: Torah.
4) Tell your children you love them, and will love them forever, but you do not love nor will you tolerate behavior that vilifies what we as Jewish people are supposed to represent.
There are many other things I would recommend but space does not allow me to do so. The thing to remember is that the computer is not here to control our lives. We must control it.
It is time to wake up and unclog our computerized hearts and minds and behave like the people of G-d. It is time to arise from our lethargy, shake off the dust of our exile, and don our priestly garments. That is the only way we can protect our families and ourselves from this deadly scourge that is poisoning so many lives.
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